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Conversations with Mark Mendoza

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Mendoza.

Hi Mark, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
How I got started…that’s actually a great question. I guess I can say that I was always the family photographer/videographer on our vacations and special occasions. Then fast forward to an ex-girlfriend of mine, buying me a high-end point-and-shoot camera that took my liking of photography to more of a serious hobbyist. A year or two later, I turned that camera in for my first “professional” camera and continued running from there. It wasn’t until a friend of mine who was an art major took a look at my work and said I had a natural eye for this. With my ego blown up, I started doing photoshoots for free or very minimal amounts of money to build up my portfolio. Then one year, I decided to demote myself at my 9-5 job from assistant manager to part-time stock associate so that I can take a part-time position at a photography studio in the mall.

From there, I met and dated someone who had their bachelor’s in photography and we started a business together. We did weddings for friends, booked gigs off of Craigslist, and so forth. That’s probably the point where I told myself that this is something I really want to do and make a living out of. I should have probably mentioned that I am originally from the east coast, NJ, to be exact. In 2016, I relocated to LA for a job and after a year of enjoying my new surroundings and taking a short hiatus from photography, I told myself that I was in a prime location to really take my photography to the next level; and so I did. For the past 2-4 years, I’ve been photographing heavily in the music industry, thanks to my brother in arms, Justin Garza. He manages producers, singer-songwriters, and artists. I shoot a lot of content, behind the scenes, music events, and album art for his artists. From there, like anything, I would be recommended to other people for their photography needs. Recently I did a shoot for a friend of mine who is a private chef which lead me to shoot some interior design work. I’m the type of photographer who doesn’t like to pigeonhole myself in one category. If there’s an opportunity for me to photograph something I haven’t before, I’ll do it. I guess that’s the high-level overview of how I started to where I am today.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Roads never stay smooth forever. Just when you think you’re cruising along, a pothole will come out of nowhere, or an animal might jump out into the road, or worse you get hit but a drunk driver. That road, however, will continue to go on for as long as you continue to ride it. All that matters is how you navigate those obstacles. That’s a long answer for me to just say, of course not. My struggles came from my growth as a photographer. I am self-taught, and I’ve really come a long way from when I used to shoot as a hobby. The struggle really comes from me being a hard critic of myself. Sometimes the struggle comes from not being able to turn off the noise of social media and ensuring that my work doesn’t fall into the “Instagram” trap of trends I do make those mistakes and fall into those traps sometimes, but I’ve been lucky to see myself out of them also and have been able to continually grow as a photographer, which never ends.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into a category, but if I had to shoot just one subject for the rest of my life, it would be portraits. A romantic dream of mine is to have a huge studio space in a quaint town, maybe in the mountains or by the beach, and just photograph the people who live there. I would love to tell their story through a single image of them. With that said, I do shoot a lot in the music industry just because of my network, but I have been known to be a very fast photographer. My photography sessions don’t normally last more than an hour. That’s of course if we’re in one location and the shoot doesn’t involve a lot of people. I really struggle with acknowledging what I’m proud of when it comes to myself. But if I had to give an answer, I guess it would be seeing my work all over my friend’s social media, and what’s even more special is seeing my work being displayed at my friend’s homes. I’ve been blessed to photograph some really special occasions in my friend’s lives, and to see my photographs of them being hung in their homes, really means a lot, and that makes me proud.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
That’s a great question and I don’t know if I have the answer to that. What has been great to see in the past five years and even a little more of that is the amount of talent around the world. It’s great to see the work of so many talented photographers from every walk of life. From amateurs to professionals. It’s really a beautiful thing to see. What I will say is that there’s always that “anti” or “hipster” crowd that likes to stray away from the rest of the people. In photography, there’s been a huge resurgence of film photographers. I’d say that film has always been a romantic/purist side of the photography community, but I see the resurgence happening from the younger generation now. Those who grew up with social media already being a part of everyday life, they’re the ones who are really pushing the analog life. They’re also the ones who inspire me to shoot more film than I ever have before.

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